Simon is traveling by train to Toronto to meet with Mr. MacKenzie. He thinks about Rachel Humphrey, who has become his mistress, and feels relieved to be far away from her. The first time they slept together, he maintains, “was an accident”; Simon thinks of himself has having been “ambushed,” and Rachel herself claims she was sleepwalking. Every night since, however, Rachel has come to Simon’s room. Each encounter always begins with Rachel sobbing, worried about what her husband would think and what might happen if she and Simon are discovered. Simon comforts her and though Rachel keeps up “a pretence of aversion,” Simon feels sure that his role is “to overcome” her resistance. He reflects: “At the moment of her climax—which she attempts to disguise as pain—she always says no.” He wonders “what idiocies he has uttered” while in bed with Rachel. “How far, exactly, will he go?” he wonders. “How far in.”
It is difficult to know whether Simon’s description of his affair is trustworthy. The fact that he has consistently had fantasies involving him overpowering women makes it seem suspicious that Rachel so perfectly fits the mold of his fantasy woman—someone who pretends to be reluctant, but secretly wants to be seduced by him. The fact that Simon’s mental state has been degenerating over the course of the novel further opens up the possibility that his affair with Rachel has been more coercive than consensual.
Simon’s train pulls into the Toronto train station, and as he disembarks, Simon resolves to leave thoughts of Rachel behind him. He finds himself wishing he were in London or Paris, where he would have “no ties, no connections” and “would be able to lose himself completely.”
Simon’s strange desire to go somewhere and become anonymous seems to reflect his increasingly tenuous grip on the reality of his life.